Shanghai index up 1.6%, highest close in 6 months

SHANGHAI stocks advanced to a six-month high, capping the first annual gain in three years, as market sentiment improved after data showed China’s manufacturing activity accelerated at the fastest pace in 19 months in December.

The key Shanghai Composite Index added 1.6 percent to close at 2,269.13 points, the highest close since June 21. Daily turnover was 105.5 billion yuan (US$17 billion). The index surged 14.6 percent this month and gained 3.17 percent for the year.

The HSBC China Purchasing Managers’ Index, a gauge of the country’s manufacturing activity slanted more toward private and export-oriented firms, rose to a 19-month high of 51.5 in December, up from November’s 50.5, HSBC Holdings PLC announced today.

A reading of above 50 means expansion and a figure below 50 indicates contraction.

Qu Hongbin, HSBC’s chief economist for China, attributed the rising figure to a faster growth in new orders and the end of destocking. “The momentum is likely to continue as infrastructure projects are in full swing and the housing market is further stabilizing,” Qu said.

The HSBC expects China’s economy to recover mildly next year at a growth rate of 8.6 percent.

An improving economy gave a boost to the market sentiment. “Investor confidence is buoyed by the recovering PMI and improving economic conditions are paving the foundation for an increase in the earnings of listed companies,” said Xu Guangfu, analyst with Xiangcai Securities.

Financials gained as China’s securities regulator would allow brokerages, insurance asset management firms and private equity fund management companies to run mutual fund business.

CITIC Securities, China’s biggest listed brokerage, added 1.5 percent to 13.36 yuan. Haitong Securities Co gained 2 percent to 10.25 yuan. Sinolink Securities Co climbed 3.5 percent to 17.84 yuan.

China Life Insurance, the country’s biggest insurer, rose 5.8 percent to 21.40 yuan. Ping An Insurance Co, the second biggest, added 3.4 percent to 45.29 yuan. China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co gained 5.8 percent to 22.50 yuan.

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